In these days of instant communication, my closest friends who are continents away seem so near. Just last night, I was able to have a stirring exchange with a life-long friend. We started over the phone then moved to the laptop when he had photos to show me of his recent work. He wanted honest comments and I gave it to him and then some. The conversation moved inexorably to Malaysia and I was pleased that he had kept up with the happenings.
Some people make us respond from the gut and he is just that kind of person. It’s useless to put up a front because they know us better than we do. The thing about such friendships is that they work from the premise of a shared history and values that are from the same ballpark so we understand each other. We don’t always agree and often disagree vehemently in fact, but we can always count on the honesty of each other’s views. He is a smart fellow that has no problem thinking on his feet and can seem a bit bi-polar like many people with smouldering intellects. Only the unembellished truth would do for them. They can always tell when we are spinning or bull-jazzing.
He remarked that one of my recent articles about Mahathir really got netizens riled up. In his words, “Your piece about Mahathir saving us really got the mamak-haters going.”
So I replied that Kit Siang and Tony Pua have been going on about 1MDB far longer than the Old Man has but no one has taken them seriously, putting it down to opposition polemics. None of them can deliver the oomph that Mahathir can. They blame him for putting us in this hole and for pushing Najib to the top. They can’t forgive the Old Man for building and nurturing the machine that now defends Najib. They hate his guts and feel he is a hypocrite for getting into the fight this late in the day.
To this he retorted, “Yes, no one can fry up a plate of mee like Old Man and he knows how to sell it.”
I told him that I thought few people in Umno would even consider the word “sorry”, but Old Man has expressed his regret and said sorry to the nation with a grace that is rare. He must want to clean his slate badly before he goes on the long sleep. But lots of people still think he’s shedding crocodile tears too late and he’s never been held to account for his own laundry list of scandals. He is also a ketuanan chauvinist, to top it off. Can we fault these people for wanting him to shut up?
His response was, “At least he’s taking responsibility now. Mahathir is the father and mother of modern Malaysia. Without him, the Malays would still be struggling to get out of the backwater and everyone else without exception would be in a sleepy Third World idyll.
“He may not be good, but he is smart. And he’s taking responsibility for the monster he created. The Old Man is a player and Malaysians need to play hard ball now to get out of this mess. Thank God for Dr M.”
Having typed “Old Man” so many times, it got me thinking about one of my all-time favourites, The Old Man and the Sea. Ernest Hemingway was a romantic who loved a good fish story; he was an avid fisherman himself. I knew my friend liked Hemingway and would give an interesting response. So I said, “Most men with high ideals are surprisingly rooted to the earth. Old Man knows his time is near, very Hemingway of him to bring just the skeleton of the swordfish back to the jetty.” My friend didn’t disappoint.
“It’s really poetic” he replied.
“Old man endures the sun and sea. He struggles with thirst and hunger as the giant fish drags him farther and farther from land. He is frail and exhausted but he won’t let go. As he pulls it in, he finds the sharks have eaten the fish. But the Old Man won’t let go of the principle of Malaysia.
“I think Mahathir’s principle is success and not necessarily goodness or fairness. Malaysia must succeed. If not, he will bring the skeleton back to the dock anyhow.”
Politicians are more likely to purr like kittens to be part of the game than to stick their necks out to do what is proper and expected of them. Their motto is likely to be “Make hay while the sun shines as the morrow is full of dark clouds.”
Bersih #4 and the story of civil disobedience is just a reflex action of a public who don’t know what else they can do and have lost hope that the system will wipe its own behind. Thus far, the voices calling for a committed resolution to the scandals surrounding 1MDB and of 1MDB itself, have come from people not in the same weight-class as Najib. Then who the heck is left? It may sound rude but do we still want Mahathir to shut up?